From Tirupattur to Melbourne via Malaysia, Arunasalam hopes for hockey glory

Australia Junior forward Kiran Arunsalam speaks to Sportstar about his roots and his dreams of representing the Australian hockey team in the future.

Kiran Arunasalam (left) with team mate Ryan Proctor at the Major Dhyan Chand stadium in Lucknow.   -  Special Arrangement

His profile page on the Victorian Institute of Sport's website gives an insight into the kind of person Kiran Arunasalam is. It reads, “I've failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”

That has also been the motto for the 21-year old as a hockey player as well, which is almost 75 percent of his lifetime so far. He is also one in a long line of Indian-origin players who, for some reason, have always commanded a special place in the ranks of hockey teams across the world. Those players, in turn, have always maintained a special affinity for the country of their forefathers.

Arunasalam is no different. The Australian junior forward traces his lineage to the town of Tirupattur in the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu, a place he says his family has retained links to through their extended relations and the ancestral house. That, however, in no way influenced his decision to pick up the sport, he adds, given the fact that both his parents were Malaysian Indians before migrating to Australia.

“My dad moved to Australia for his university studies about 35 years ago and I was born in Melbourne. My parents were born and grew up in Malaysia. I have been to our ancestral town in India twice, the last time in 2012, so I haven't been there in a while but hope to soon,” Arunasalam says, adding that he was initiated into the game by his brother. The latter moved on to running but Arunasalam stuck to the sport he first picked up 16 years ago.

The student of marketing is also aware that, while he is fit enough for the high-intensity competition of international hockey, he is not endowed with the kind of brute strength that his team mates enjoy. He does make up for it in other ways, though.

“Well, I can bench press a lot! Maybe I am not as fit but I have my own skill sets. I am a little bit faster, I am a little more agile. But I don't know, I am not sure. I can say I am fast so I can exploit that a little bit. You are always competing with other people on physical abilities but it's how you use those abilities, that's the important bit,” he shrugs.

With families in both India and Malaysia, Arunasalam admits its a challenge playing against both opponents but would pick India any day. “India is definitely a challenge. We went to Johor last year and they beat us. We haven't played them since then as a team but I played them in the AHL with Victoria and beat them in the shoot-outs. Malaysia is cool too but I think I prefer to play India,” he declares.

That profile page for VIS also lists his life's ambition as playing hockey for Australia. This Junior World Cup, he hopes, would be the first step to achieving that.